To Sit in Solitude, To Think in Solitude with only the Music of the Stream and the Cedar to Break the Flow of Silence, There Lies the Value of Wilderness. – John Muir
This past weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer with a local conservancy that received a grant to help monitor the Cedar River. The grant is provided by MICorps (The Michigan Clean Water Corps) to monitor streams around Michigan to assess the streams quality.
Anyways, it was only 50 degrees out with cloud cover, some drizzling rain, and rather windy– but we put on our boots and headed out to our site. I am always up for anything outdoors, but it even surprised me when I signed up to lead a team on searching for macro-invertebrates, you know…bugs! I do not really have a problem with bugs, but I have no clue what is living in the water, peel back some bark I know what I will find but to search the stream was new to me. I had done some work with macro-invertebrates back in college but not as extensive as this.
Anyways, so we are setting up, wind blowing our hair and I begin the timer! T (the collector of my group) headed into the stream net in hand and began to search under logs, under vegetation, moving the sandy substrate below to toss up anything living! As she would get things I would collect it and take it back to “H” who was sorting through and trying to locate little fellas! Because we were short handed and only had 30 minutes to search the stream, I helped out both T and H with their duties. I began sifting through vegetation and sand looking for anything that moved. Then I hit the mother load! An old branch that had fallen in the stream and made home there in the stream; had loads of little critters crawling! We picked and picked and picked and finally we felt confident that we had close to 100 macro invertebrates and began to identify what exactly we had and classified it to get a measurement of quality for the stream. In our section we found that it was ranked excellent. By what we found in the stream rated it healthy. We even found a little tadpole, but we let it go!
The stream was very clear and had great buffer zones of trees and other shrubs to keep it cool and clean. Trees and shrubs allow for stability of the banks that prevent erosion of sediment, pesticides, nitrogen and other pollutants into the stream. If its a cold water stream that houses trout, it is crucial to keep the temperature down but shade trees in order to keep providing that habitat for trout. It is important for us to monitor these streams, not only for water quality for ourselves but also for the wildlife using the stream. As we continue to add more “plots” and monitor more sections of the stream we can asses the watershed as a whole and if any management needs to be addressed.
So as the stream flowed and the cedar trees broke the silence– we three enjoyed the wilderness of the stream, forest and wildlife that surrounded us. We left the stream and stream bank un harmed- it was like we were not even there with the exception of T’s large boot hole where she sunk into the muck!